David Granville reviews The Oxford Companion to Irish History, S J Connolly (ed), Oxford University Press, £25 hbk
FOR THOSE readers of the Irish Democratwho share a passion for Irish history, which I assume is quite a few, and who enjoy a good reference book, the new edition of The Oxford Companion to Irish History edited by S J Connolly will be greeted with some enthusiasm -- although the price will undoubtedly provide a damper for some.
With over 1,800 entries compiled by 96 contributors, ranging from the doyen of anti-national revisionists such as Roy Foster through to more progressive representatives of the profession such as Hiram Morgan, it’s unlikely that the reader is going to agree with ever interpretation found here. It’s also inevitable that the selection of entries contained in a work such as this will be the subject of dispute.
Nevertheless, this is a fascinating and illuminating book which will provide hours of leisurely enjoyment, prove a valuable aid to serious study and may even help the odd reader win the occasional magazine competition or two.
With this new edition, serious efforts have been made to amend errors and correct misprints contained in the first edition, published in 1995, and to revise and update the text in line with recent research and events.
New contributors have also been brought in specifically to broaden the coverage of art, literature, archaeology, material culture, contemporary and current political developments.
The book’s publicity blurb claims a number of new entries on individuals who have died since the publication of the first edition, though none of the names that immediately sprung to my mind, former IRA hunger striker Pat McGeown, international brigaders Peter O’Connor and Maurice Levitas or progressive journalist and civil rights campaigner Jack Bennett made the final cut, thus indicating, to this reviewer at least, a certain political ‘conservatism’.
Then again, this is an Oxford University Press edition, and therefore is only to be expected.
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